Pennsylvania moves closer to snow-free vehicle mandate

September 30, 2019

Keith Goble

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A lengthy push at the Pennsylvania statehouse to address concerns about snow and ice removal from atop cars and trucks has taken another step towards passage.

State law already allows police to ticket car and truck drivers for fines of $200 to $1,000 if the wintry precipitation causes serious injury or death.

The Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to advance a bill to the Senate floor that is intended to be proactive on the issue of ice removal from vehicles. The Senate voted unanimously one year ago to advance the effort. House lawmakers, however, did not take the issue up for discussion before the session wrapped up.

Sponsored by Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, SB114 would authorize law enforcement to issue tickets solely for failure to clear their vehicles of snow and ice.

For years, Boscola has pursued the change at the statehouse. She has said her bill is about safety and responsibility.

“Hopefully, it would increase public awareness and make people more vigilant about clearing snow and ice from their vehicles,” Boscola said in previous remarks.

Drivers would be required to make “reasonable efforts” to remove snow or ice from all parts of their vehicles within 24 hours of a weather event.

Offenders would face a maximum fine of $1,500 if the wintry precipitation causes serious injury or death. The bill would include an additional protection allowing police to ticket drivers for fines of $25 to $75 for failure to clear snow or ice before they take to the roads.

As written, truck operators would be excused if they are on their way to a facility to remove accumulated snow or ice. In addition, violations would not be issued if compliance would cause the trucker to violate any federal or state law or regulation regarding workplace safety, or if it would be a health or safety threat.

If approved by the Senate, the bill would head to the House for consideration.

New York bill for a snow-free vehicle mandate

A similar pursuit is underway in the New York State Legislature.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, D-Forest Heights, A4197 would permit police to cite truckers and other drivers for failure to act when traveling on roadways with posted speeds in excess of 40 mph. Accumulations must be at least two inches of snow or one-half inch of ice.

Violators would face $75 fines.

The bill includes an exception for occasions when snow, sleet or freezing rain falls while the vehicle is in operation.

OOIDA reaction

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is opposed to rules that permit police to pull over drivers whose vehicles were not cleared of snow or ice. They point out that facilities are not readily available to accommodate clearance mandates on trucks. Another problem is the practicality of requiring people to climb atop large vehicles, and doing it in less-than desirable conditions.

“The accumulation of snow and ice on any vehicle has the potential to negatively impact highway safety,” OOIDA Manager of Government Affairs Mike Matousek has said. “However, when it comes to commercial motor vehicles, there’s really no practical or safe way of removing it from the top of a trailer, especially during winter weather conditions.

He points out that in many cases it might also violate occupational safety laws.

“So it’s a problem with no realistic or meaningful solution, and imposing significant fines on truckers will do nothing to address the underlying issue.”

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.